2007 Bodegas Juan Gil Jumila

Bodegas Juan Gil Jumilas
100% Monastrell
15% alc.
Robert Parker: 91pts

Aroma: 8 Look: 7 Taste: 8

Made from 100% Monastrell grapes from 40 year old parcels, these grapes are whole-cluster macerated sur-lie for 25 days, minimizing the amount of malic acids and astringent tannins released, and then aged in French oak for 12 months. This intensely deep cherry varietal, has a beautifully robust fattiness with rustic tannins. The bouquet is laced with hints of wild blueberry pie, black pepper, a smoky gaminess and traces of earthy leather. On the palate, the smokiness and wild blue fruits are playful while a floral element of violet intoxicatingly emerges adding a further complexity to this well balanced wine.


Restaurant Review: "Tarry Lodge"

Tarry Lodge
18 Mill Street
Port Chester, NY 10573
(914) 939-3111

Ambiance:8 Service:7 Food: 8 Price: $$$

From the street, standing only a couple hundred feet from America's claustrophobic culture of chains and shopping centers, is an erected 100-year-old square, pompously painted avocado meets olive, adorned with creme trim and internally boasting a cultural trattoria experience just through the double wooden doors.

Inside, the walls emanate a rustic Italian warmth with it's Berkshire beige hue bedecked with decorative tapestries. Structural pillars are positioned throughout the room with sculpted shelves boasting bottles of Italian vino (which they have no problem doing as their wine list is a conglomeration of hundreds of bottles from all regions of Italy ranging from $30 to $1,200 per bottle).

With a menu boasting dishes such as "Goat Cheese with Pistachios and Truffle Honey artisan pizza ($14)", "Tuna Tartare Tartufo with Marcona Almonds ($13)", "Black Fettuccine with Shrimp and Artichokes ($19)" and "Whole Roasted Branzino with Orange Mint Jam ($29)", even the fiscally conservative can indulge in a gastronomic experience without leaving with pockets whose only remnants of money is the lint from a dime.

I embraced the "Guanciale, Black Truffles and Sunny Side Egg pizza ($17)" like a two year old does his mom; I could feel the Italian love wafting out of it's artisan crust. As I chewed on a slice of ciabatta bread (served with a dish of olive oil with baby Italian olives), my mouth set itself up for the biggest orgasm ever encountered. If marriage with a pizza could exist legally, consider this one my bride. The unsmoked pig's jowl "guanciale" was delicately peppery with a rich porky succulence that bosomed the opulent earthy and leathery gems; the shaved black truffles. In the center of the pizza was a sunny side up egg, bleeding its rich yellow yolk over the layers of melted fresh mozzarella adding to this hedonistic affair.

Opened in 2008 by Food Network famed chef Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, this Port Chester, NY establishment is one not to be missed. Take a date, take your family, take yourself, just don't ask if Mario Batali is in the back; Chef Andy Nusser is the mastermind behind this sybaritic adventure.


Restaurant Review: Momofuku 'Milk Bar'

Momofuku Milk Bar
207 2nd ave. nyc 10003
(corner of 13th and 2nd)
Website: http://www.momofuku.com/milkbar/default.asp

Ambiance: 6 Service: 7 Food: 7

There is something surreal about this establishment. Perhaps it's the semi-absurd ice cream flavors such as 'salt & pepper', 'cereal milk' and 'peanut butter and jelly'. Or maybe it's the infamous "compost cookie" which is a mere claustrophobic composition combining pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch, chocolate chips into a smorgasbord of an offering. Yet the motley crew one would think such an establishment would attract wasn't so motley but merely gastronomes who are looking for anomalous treats to satiate their culinary curiosities.

In my late night search for the bizarre, Christina Tosi, pastry chef/owner provided just that. Somehow, someway, she brilliantly captured the exact flavor of salt and pepper in her ice milk soft serve. It was as if I was licking a dish containing cracked pepper and kosher salt. I swirled with it the peanut butter and jelly soft serve which too was crafted with prowess. On the forefront of the palate was the jammy strawberry flavors, while the finish offered the sweet and nuttiness that you'd find in a container of Skippy or Jiff. It was identical to how a peanut butter and jelly sandwich attacks the palate: jelly first, peanut butter second. Brilliant.

The decor is homely. Dark, rustic hard wood panels line the walls with a large chalkboard covered in colorful scrawl annotating the offerings. Long wooden tables are positioned to suggest the communal activity that ice cream eating is and should be. While waiting for your treats to be made, the open kitchen provides an enjoyable vista of the pastry chef's hard at work.


2005 Lan Rioja Crianza

Rioja Crianza

Nose:7 Taste: 7 Value: 7

To the eye, this medium-full bodied, DenominaciĆ³n de Origen Calificada Rioja offers a coloration of red cherry turning on ruby. Crushed rose petals render the bouquet slightly delicate and floral while the sweet, candied red fruits and wisps of pepper round it out. The taste is redolent of the nose without adding much more complexities once on the palate. Nice titillating acidity and tannins.


2007 Bodegas Alto Almanzora "Este"

Bodegas Alto Almanzora "Este"

45% Monastrell, 25% Tempranillo, additions of Syra, Garnacha, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Robert Parker: 90 pts

Nose: 8 Taste: 7 Value: 8

From the Almansa region in Spain comes this deep red brushed with purple, medium bodied wine with well structured tannins and an alcohol content of 14% giving it structure and balanced heat. A peppery and cherry cola nose enveloped with smoke, spice box and wild blueberries create Este's inviting bouquet. The palate too senses the black pepper, berries and the smoky oak. It's a temptress of a wine yet somehow not overbearing.


2007 Bodegas Ercavio Tempranillo Roble.

Bodegas Ercavio
Tempranillo Roble
90 pts--Robert Parker.

Nose: 8 Taste: 8 Value: 8

It was only thirty to forty years ago when consumer's of Spain's wine were unsatisfied with it's mass produced, meretricious varietals. Things have obviously changed for Spain. Currently holding the reputation for a wine producing country that provides the best value, Spain constantly brings high quality wines to the table for a price that is much lower than its opulence. This 2007 Cencibel (Tempranillo), aged for five months in a combination of French and American Oak offers a thick bodied, opaquely deep purple wine with teething tannins and juicy acidity. With the introduction of air, the nose expresses cedar, leather, dusty briary, bramble fruit and a trace amount of a powdery floral aspect. The sensations are furthered on the palate with hints of blueberry, licorice and spice with a teasing chocolaty finish.

Reflective Essay: The Mulberry Tree

This is my first paper for my English composition class now that I am back in the shoes of a college student.

Andrew Hoover
The Mulberry Tree
“Reflective Essay”

A print of Van Gogh’s The Mulberry Tree discordantly hung against the freshly whitewashed plaster walls of my recently acquired apartment. It wasn’t that the colors of the print didn’t aesthetically sit well amongst the whiteness; most colors do blend well with white. Simply, white is the color of tranquility, the color of the heavens, the color of innocence. But the burning mango oranges, lascivious reds, saffrons, and the sulfurous yellows depicting an arthritic and seemingly bereaving mulberry tree was all but peaceful.
Yet the arousing, sinister, piece was appropriate in my forlorn, fourth floor apartment. Fastened to the white stucco wall, it hung like a limp body, pre-rigor, bounded by a noose, above the oak kitchen table making an avowal of my mind’s state of being: lonely, depressed, and feeling lifeless.
“How did it come to this?” I asked myself while picking through my nightly dinner of dry, over-salted, chicken breasts and baked beans. It didn’t matter that I previously had worked in a gastronomic restaurant; I had little care to the cuisine I would serve myself. I could almost feel the brow beatings from past chefs I had worked with lashing out against my pitiful attempt I called dinner. The fact that I was eating in my depressed state was a laudable feat as it’s often passed up by many disconsolate souls. I was merely doing it for the likes of my mother as lying to her would only make me feel guilty, adding another shade of darkness to my mind.
“Are you eating well enough, Andrew?” My mom would ask nightly, as if on cue.
Well enough could be insinuating two things: am I eating enough, or am I eating flavorful, properly cooked meals.
“Yes, mom, I’m eating enough”, I said. I eliminated the “well” thus replying to the former of the two.
“Were you able to enjoy class any better today?”
“I’m miserable, mom, it’s killing me.”
She felt so far away.
After replaying the gloom of my day to day for my mom, I lethargically chewed the crude, desiccated chicken, catching myself dazing off into the psychedelic world where the mulberry tree stood, seeing the last two months of my life as the lurid painting.
“Selfish. Andrew. That was selfish,” I chastened myself, “you had a life back in Ohio. You just packed up and left.”
I chose pursuing a dream rather than pursuing reality. It was a dream I felt was tangible enough to chase, though at times it felt more like following a Siren. I was being seduced, yet the seductress was a fleeting chimera, always just beyond my grasp.

The temptress guided my hands to load my 2003 Ford Explorer with my two years worth of personal belongings: text books, guitars, computer and clothes. Like a hound following a favorable scent, I high tailed out of the dust caked country roads of Oxford, Ohio, past the derelict barns with their forgotten, now fallow fields and drove five hundred miles East to a little artsy town called Charlottesville, Virginia.
I had started this new life built on a lie. Not to myself, but to my parents. The real reason I had transferred to the University of Virginia was not because of its impeccable reputation for edifying its students with the nation’s top ranked professors. In reality, it was for the scene. I needed to immerse myself in a culture where my music could be nurtured, grown, and consumed by the population. I needed a town where artists roamed the sidewalks, where it was more common to see a guitar-slinging beatnik on the corner than a fraternity brother with a pink, popped collar (though to my disappointment, those were quite common there too).
Evilly, I convinced myself that people were disposable and dreams were not. With the discarding of my old life and the friends that accompanied it, like dispensing a fountain pen after the ink has ceased to flow, the consequences bared their identity. As with all action, a reaction piggybacks along. Depression, confusion and lonesomeness had now latched onto my back like a ruthless river leech, and rode me until I deteriorated and fell broken into the ground.
I sat in the love seat, cornered in my living room and colored as blue as my mind, making myself believe that the dream I was following was seemingly more and more like a mirage. My hope for being able to live the life of a touring musician was the refraction of light; the foreign environment I had plunged myself into was the hot air. I possessed the idealistic conditions for illusion.
It was a vicious cycle. The workload at the University of Virginia was far more demanding than I was expecting. It prevented me from having the allocated time to make meaning with my art; the sole purpose of an artist’s being and the primary reason for my transferring schools. Without the time to create, I felt devoid of meaning, lifeless. A weakness began to accumulate as if someone had hollowed out the marrow from my bones and injected it with a hydrous liquid. Lethargy, depression’s ally, kept me from doing the academics and like a spirochete, I penetrated deeper into my abysmal meaningless state, gleaning mass amounts of erudite readings and unwritten papers like a farmer does wheat. I was becoming exponentially more disconnected from my music until free falling was no longer feasible.
“Ms. Christie,” I said with a voice that paralleled my unease. “I’m having trouble balancing all of these courses with my music, I was hoping I might be able to drop a class and see if that helps.” Speaking with a guidance counselor was my final attempt at salvaging the wreckage.
“Transfer student,” she said with an inflection of academia. “I see you transferred from Miami of Ohio, yes well students here at Virginia are much smarter and capable than those at Miami.”
I mustered every last strength not to rip her erudite, tortoise shell, glasses off of her superciliously raised eyes. I felt the sinew in my forearms tauten and I excused myself.

There comes a time when the self’s downfall is halted, the limestone floor has met you and there is no more air for gravity to force you down. It’s at this point where you have a choice to make. Be weak and stay lifeless on the cold floor, giving into to the death of the self, or use every last morsel of energy to fan the smoldering embers of motivation and resurrect yourself, scarred soul and all. I began to look at the journey I had taken, the move from Ohio to Virginia and the downward plummet of my self, my music, and my dream. I began to realize that the depression laid on me was a gift, not a curse. It wasn’t a rut; it was the initiation point. It was my dream’s enabler, my personal catalyst to begin my musical journey.
Although we can only know the complete details of the journey we are currently embarked on, as I packed the cardboard boxes back up, quicker than I had unpacked them, I saw with complete clairvoyance the future that would have been written had I not left Ohio. Post graduation, New York City would summon me and my collegiate knowledge to work on one of its many over colonized avenues. I would commute by train, at an ungodly hour, only to spend the rest of my day in a marble constructed, box shaped, corporate office building constructed by some French architect with a last name that most Americans with college degrees couldn’t pronounce. Claustrophobia and lunacy would swathe me the way a feathery, slate, plume tresses around a smoker as I sat captive in a medical white cubical, spending my days on the phone schmoozing clients into using the product or service I was contracted to promote. At the days end, tired and frustrated with my life that disobediently strayed from a pipedream that was once pursuable, I would refuse myself to stoop so low as to make a dilettante’s art. I would give up creating all together. I’d spend the remaining hours of the night staring off at the television, feeling my pons jellify while diminishing into a comatose state until I woke up the next day and lived it again, like last night’s rerun.
Van Gogh asked, “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” (pg 3). Life would be as homely as the fallow, desolate, Ohio fields in November. A monotone melody or a meager black circle abstractedly painted on a cosmic latte hued canvas. But our minds, why they would be as anguished and bereft as The Mulberry Tree.

Work Cited
"Vincent Van Gogh Quotes." Thinkexist. Web. 31 Jan. 2010.